(CN) – Three Duke Energy subsidiaries pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a total of $102 million to settle charges stemming from a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina in 2014.
The three companies pleaded guilty to nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act before U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard at the Raleigh, N.C. Federal Court this Thursday afternoon.
Four of the charges were the direct result of the Dan River coal ash spill. The remaining violations were discovered as the scope of the federal investigation broadened based on allegations of historical violations at the companies’ other facilities.
Under the terms of the plea agreement they will pay a $68 million criminal fine and spend $34 million on environmental and land conservation projects in both North Carolina and Virginia.
In addition, both Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress, must certify that they have reserved sufficient assets to meet legal obligations with respect to its coal ash impoundments within North Carolina, obligations estimated to be approximately $3.4 billion.
Prior to the guilty pleas being entered, Banu Rangarajan, of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Raleigh, told Judge Howard that Duke Energy ignored repeated warnings before a broken pipe gave way on Feb. 2, 1014, and dumped tons of coal ash into the river.
The company also twice refused to spend $20,000 on video inspections of the decade’s old pipe that could have shown it was made of corrugated metal and was therefore unsound. Before the spill Duke employees had believed the pipe was made of reinforced concrete.
The guilty pleas were entered by Julia Janson, Duke’s chief legal officer.
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